Kadie-Ann Dehaney and her two elder siblings were raised by their grandmother after rheumatoid arthritis and cancer claimed both their parents around a decade ago. Back then, Australia was a distant destination far from the young Jamaican’s thoughts.
Even in 2015, as a late call-up to the Netball World Cup in Sydney, the Kingston-raised defender admits she knew so little about the country, and the international competition she was about to enter, that when it was mentioned that she may find herself marking Diamonds star Caitlin Bassett, her response was: “Who’s that?’’
A year later, when told at university back in Kingston that she was going to receive an offer to relocate 15,400 kilometres to Melbourne to complete the Vixens’ inaugural Suncorp Super Netball roster, “surprised” doesn’t quite cover it.
“I wasn’t taking it seriously,’’ Dehaney laughs. “I’d only played for Jamaica once and I didn’t get the exposure. I didn’t think at that time that I would be here today.’’
But so, she is. Coach Simone McKinnis had seen something in the World Cup debutante during that first trip to Sydney - notably, 192-centimetres of reach and leap and something a little bit different than the Vixens’ defensive circle already had.
Now, after court time in two games during her first season, the education continues in the second. In round two, Dehaney was called off the bench to replace the injured Jo Weston as part of a temporary defensive reshuffle against the NSW Swifts, then finished the day by playing two quarters for ANL feeder club Victorian Fury.
The main event “went well’’, says Dehaney, whose only disappointment was failing to complete the intercept she had craved.
Her ongoing personal focus? “Footwork and aggression.’’ And collectively? “To keep the intensity for all four quarters. Everybody’s aim is to win all four quarters and we’re always looking to improve our game every week.’’
Asked about the biggest difference between Jamaican club netball and Super Netball, Dehaney’s answer is emphatic: “Everything! The training, the intensity, gym, everything is different, and it’s a higher level than in Jamaica. At training it’s so precise. It’s like ‘you have to do this and this right in training to get it right on court’. Before I came here I thought training in Jamaica was hard. But I’ve been improving mentally and physically, so it’s good.’’
Off-court, initially, the biggest adjustment was the food, but the devotee of the Jamaican national dish, saltfish, is now embracing a dietarian-recommended menu big on local fish, chicken and yoghurt, as well as house-mate Emma Ryde’s pasta offerings. Mwai Kumwenda completes the Maribyrnong-based trio, with the Malawian sharing the cooking and cleaning duties but not the same taste in films.
“Me and Emma like horror movies,’’ Dehaney admits. MJ? Not so much.
The chilly Melbourne winter remains as unappealing as the prospect of the dreaded ice bath, but the 21-year-old is both a new learner driver (having qualified for her L plates on Thursday) and novice swimmer, for whom - with Kumwenda - the Vixens organised lessons in the VIS pool soon after their arrival.
“We haven’t done it too much this year, but I like it. I’ve been getting better,’’ says Dehaney, who bursts into laughter when asked how many laps she can now swim. “Oh, still half a lap! I’ve gotta stop in between and then go again.’’
While at high school, Dehaney also played basketball, quipping that she chose netball because “basketball’s harder - more running!’’
She also, until 2015, played at both ends of the court, having started out as a goaler, and switched between the two positions until the arrival of Australian coach Jill McIntosh.
“One game we had multiple shooters and less defenders, so I said ‘oh, I’ll try’, and then I liked it better,’’ she recalls.
“I just tried it and it worked for a bit, and then Jill came to Jamaica and said ‘oh, no I don’t need you shooting, I just need you in defence. No more shooting’. So, I stopped.’’
Kadie-Ann, known as ‘KD’ to her teammates, has started a teaching degree in geography and environmental science, and last year’s Jamaican 21-and-under captain has set herself for not just a 2018 Super Netball title with the Vixens but an international recall for the 2019 Netball World Cup in Liverpool.
Among her potential teammates are her friends Queensland Firebirds’ Romelda Aiken and West Coast Fever’s Jhaniele Fowler. The Australian-based group of Jamaicans, completed by Thunderbirds’ recruit Shimona Nelson, keeps in regular touch.
Aiken was planning to stay overnight in Melbourne after Saturday’s game and get a later flight back “to just hang out and stuff’’, while Dehaney hopes to do likewise in Brisbane in round 10.
As yet, there has been no visit from her proud grandmother back in Kingston. So, will Egenie Dennis make the long trip to Australia at some stage to watch the youngest of the Dehaney children she has helped raise? “Yeah,’’ says Dehaney, “maybe soon.’’
By Linda Pearce, multi-award-winning netball writer with over 30 years experience.